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2012 Castle Cross had it all

December 5, 2012

The 2012 Castle Cross men’s open race on December 2nd stands out as one of the most dynamic Denver / Boulder area cyclocross races this season.

A mechanical distanced a favorite from the podium, likely ruining his chances to wrap his hands around the Colorado Cross Cup trophy at the end of the season. Another guy’s winning streak ended. One junior proved he can out-race more seniors than he thought possible, while a consistently top junior ace came in next to last.

The only predictable outcome was Danny Summerhill’s win.

Danny Summerhill wins 2012 Castle Cross

Danny Summerhill wins 2012 Castle Cross

Men’s race action

After the gun the field began an heavy uphill sprint along the road until the first turn onto dirt to enter Rhyolite Park. Russell Stevenson of Boulder Cycle Sport appeared to take the right-hander first with Summerhill (Chipotle – First Solar) on his wheel and Spencer Powlison of Evol Elite Racing p/b Pharmaca right behind. Others in the mix at the front included Brett Pirie (Groove Subaru-Alpha Bicycle Co.), Brandon Dwight of Boulder Cycle Sport, Erik Hamilton (University Bicycles), Zane Godby (Clif Bar), Ken Benesh (Feedback Sports), and Pete Webber (Boulder Cycle Sport).

Into lap two Stevenson, Summerhill, and Powlison in that order rode as a tight threesome. By lap three Summerhill had taken the lead in this front group. Tim Allen of Feedback Sports made contact with them and built a gap into Dwight of about five bike lengths near the barriers on the backside of the course. A group consisting of Chris Case (Feedback Sports), Benesh, Godby, and Garrett Gerchar (Tokyo Joe’s) pursued Dwight and Allen.

With five laps to go Powlison disappeared from the front of the race. He rolled a tire not far from the pits and almost didn’t stop because the tire had bulged out and while it hit the fork he could still ride. In the pits, and distraught, he threw his wheels.

“I was kind of panicky,” Powlison said. “It’s not a good feeling to roll into the pit when you’re riding top four or top three, trying to fix whatever’s going on…” The wheel change – he doesn’t have a pit bike – added an emotional minute to his lap time and cost him a place on the podium.

Garrett Gerchar takes control of the chase

Garrett Gerchar takes control of the chase

Meanwhile Gerchar, who’s cyclocross racing age is 17, took charge of the chase group of four that solidified behind Summerhill and Stevenson.

Gerchar later explained that about mid-race he usually sets his sights on a rider he wants to best. But before Castle Cross he’d already singled out Allen as his carrot for the day.

Allen recounted Gerchar’s move as the two caught their breath after the finish line: “I pretty much felt like I was standing still on the run-up over there. This dude [Gerchar] just came out of nowhere and just lit it up. Passed the other guys in front of me, Chris Case and Pete Webber. Rode off the front of that group…”

While the showdown in the chase group developed, Summerhill continued to build his lead over Stevenson who rode alone in second. At the finish Summerhill won over Stevenson by eighteen seconds. Webber attacked the chase group on the last lap and snatched third, eight seconds ahead of fourth placed Case. Gerchar finished fifth, thirteen seconds ahead of Allen.

Stevenson’s second place result broke his string of four wins but sealed his grip on the Colorado Cross Cup; he now leads by 40 points over second place Powlison.

Gage Hecht, who dropped a chain during the race and had been ill during Saturday’s event the day before, finished next to last. Adin Baird, a junior whose racing age is 16, hung on to finish the race and came in last.

Rebecca Gross, victory at 2012 Castle Cross in sight

Rebecca Gross, victory at 2012 Castle Cross in sight

Women’s race highlights

Rebecca Gross of Tough Girl Cycling quickly opened a gap and dominated the women’s open race to its completion. Kate Powlison (Panache Cyclewear) and Kristin Weber (Boulder Cycle Sport) chased close behind, followed by riders strung out solo or in small groups.

Kristal Boni of Rapid Racing moved up as the laps ticked off and finished a strong second 44 seconds after Gross. Weber kept Boni in sight and came in third with Laurel Rathbun (Front Rangers Junior Cycling) fourth. Powlison did not finish the race.

Gross has celebrated a series of seconds and a first place in the past few weeks. She owns third in the women’s Colorado Cross Cup competition; Boni claims first with a 51 point lead over Weber who is second.

Rhyolite Park course design

The riders faced-off on a flowing course with a steep short stair section, two sets of barriers, and a steep run-up linked together by several straight-aways and a mixture of wide and hairpin turns.

The dry course and its design favored power over finesse, but off-camber loose downhills and grassy sections required a good dose of the latter. The course layout allowed spectators and rider support staff to view large portions of the course from several vantage points on its western edge.

Peter Webber, third place finisher in the men’s open race, has assisted with course design at this venue for the past two years. Webber said John Haley of Castle Rock designed and built the course. Haley has labored over those straight and sinuous spaces between tape and stakes at Rhyolite Park for the past 3 years; he spent about 100 hours creating the course for the 2012 Castle Cross event.

Webber cited changes made for 2012, namely more robust course marking which included “Belgian-style wooden posts on the key sections of the course,” snow and steel fencing, and extra stakes and tape. “It was a perfect example of how a course should be marked and only the USGP or Boulder Cup are at the same level,” Webber said. “It really creates a better race experience for everyone.” Webber also had a hand in setting up the bike park which cuts across  the western hill slope and intersected portions of the Castle Cross course.

Rhyolite Park sits in a basin near the town of Castle Rock, Colorado with a hill on the west side. It’s named after a type of rock that, according to a sign in the park, traveled to the environs in an ash cloud 36 million years ago from a volcanic eruption 100 miles away.

2012 Castle Cross men’s open race top ten

1 Danny Summerhill, Chipotle – First Solar 57:39
2 Russell Stevenson, Boulder Cycle Sport 57:57
3 Pete Webber, Boulder Cycle Sport 58:19
4 Chris Case, Feedback Sports 58:27
5 Garrett Gerchar, Boulder Junior Cycling 58:30
6 Tim Allen, Feedback Sports 58:43
7 Ken Benesh, Feedback Sports 58:54
8 Brandon Dwight, Boulder Cycle Sport 59:03
9 Zane Godby, Clif Bar Cyclocross Development Team 59:48
10 Spencer Powlison, Evol Elite p/b Pharmaca 60:25

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2012 Castle Cross women’s open race top ten

1 Rebecca Gross, Tough Girl Cycling 42:31
2 Kristal Boni, Rapid Racing 43:15
3 Kristin Weber, Boulder Cycle Sport 43:22
4 Laurel Rathbun, Front Rangers Junior Cycling 43:29
5 Katie Clouse, Cole Sport 43:34
6 Margell Abel, Tough Girl Cycling 43:43
7 Lisa Hudson, Feedback Sports 44:12
8 Ksenia Lepikhina, Boulder Jr. Cycling 45:01
9 Jessica D’Amato, Evol Elite p/b Pharmaca 45:53
10 Brittany Jones, Naked Women’s Racing 46:08

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